Women Employed by Lawmaker Describe Sexually Hostile Office
By Sam Dolnick and Danny Hakim
Five women who worked for Vito J. Lopez, the assemblyman at the center of a broadening sexual harassment scandal, described in interviews an atmosphere of sexual pressure and crude language in his office, with frequent unwanted advances by him and others, requests for provocative dress, personal questions about their boyfriends and fears of reprisals if they complained.
By their accounts, Mr. Lopez, 71, a Brooklyn Democrat, told some women not to wear bras to work. He requested they wear short skirts and high heels. He gave them cash to buy jewelry and complimented them on their figures, giving special attention to those he called “well endowed.”
He asked about their personal lives, urging them to break up with boyfriends, and berated those women — all of whom were new to politics — who did not compliment him effusively enough, according to several of the women interviewed.
One of the women, Stephanie M. Friot, spoke on the record, while the other four spoke on the condition their names not be used. Ms. Friot, 28, said that Mr. Lopez never directly harassed her but that “there was a certain culture where behaviors like that were permissible.”
Another woman described “an atmosphere of intimidation,” an environment where she and other former staff members said Mr. Lopez veered between crude jokes and fierce tirades.